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Is postponing a film's release date a wise move?-Newsonnline.com

Kartik Aaryan and Kriti Sanon starrer action entertainer Shehzada hit the marquee yesterday and going by the trade predictions, the film has had a dismal opening day collection. The fact that the makers postponed the release of the film by a week as Shah Rukh Khan’s Pathaan was wreaking havoc at the box office did no good for the film. Word going around in the trade circuits was that it wasn’t a wise move on the part of the makers and it only indicated that they did not have confidence in their film.
Postponing the release to avoid competition or clash has been a common occurrence in the film industry. Ayushmann Khurrana starrer Dream Girl 2 too pushed its release to avoid a clash with Kartik Aaryan’s Satyaprem Ki Katha. Nevertheless it will still face a competition from Sidharth Malhotra’s Yodha.

Shahid Kapoor’s Jersey too saw multiple delays in its release was pushed for multiple reasons, first due to the theatrical restrictions during pandemic and then to avoid clash with Yash’s KGF 2. The film tanked badly, irrespective.
Vijay Sethupathi and Katrina Kaif starrer Merry Christmas was initially slated for a Christmas 2022 release, but it was pushed for reasons best known to the makers.

No filmmaker would want to let go of the solo release advantage. At times, it could be over sheer goodwill with the fellow industry mates. We’ve seen many such cases in the past when SRK’s Raees was postponed to make way for Salman Khan’s Sultan, Akshay Kumar’s Once Upon ay Time in Mumbaai Dobaara! changed plans for SRK’s Chennai Express, Akshay’s PadMan let go of its initial release date for Deepika Padukone’s Padmaavat.

In today’s #BigStory we explore the ramifications of changing a film’s release date. Filmmakers, exhibitors and trade experts weigh in on what leads filmmakers to change their initial plans, its various consequences, and whether it was an avoidable decision for the makers of Shehzada. Read on.

A calculated move

Filmmaking is a serious business that involves humongous planning at every stage and big monies are put at stake to make it see light of day. It is natural then for the makers to carefully consider the release date so as to get the best of the business. Film exhibitor Akshaye Rathi explains that the decision of changing a release date revolves around multiple factors which can be pretty fluid. “It not only depends on what you’re coming with, but also the kind of anticipation and excitement that exists around your film and the films that are coming along with it. So we’ve had enough scenarios where films released on the same date, forget close to each other, and yet both have become blockbusters. Whether it was Lagaan and Gadar, Welcome and Taare Zameen Par, Raees and Kaabil, it has been happening with so many films. As long as there’s merit and great entertainment and engagement value, and the films are worthy of the public’s time, money and effort, you can come whenever and you’ll do fine,” he says.

Film analyst Atul Mohan explains that the outcome of clashes can vary widely depending on several factors such as the popularity of the competing films, the genres, and the size of the target audience and more. “In some cases, both films may do well, especially if they cater to different segments of the audience. However, in many cases, clashes can hurt the overall box office collections of both films as they may end up eating into each other’s audiences” he says.

In such cases, one film may emerge as a clear winner, while the other may suffer significant losses. The winner may enjoy an extended run in the theaters and ultimately earn higher box office collections, while the loser may have to take an early exit from theaters and not earn as much as it could have if it had a solo release.

“It is also possible that both films may underperform, particularly if they fail to live up to audience expectations or receive poor reviews. Ultimately, film clashes are risky and can be costly for the producers, distributors, and exhibitors involved. Therefore, many filmmakers and studios try to avoid clashes by carefully planning their release dates and seeking a release window that does not coincide with other big releases. Ultimately, the decision to change a film’s release date should be made based on a careful consideration of all relevant factors. It’s important to balance the potential benefits of a new release date against the potential risks and costs, and to make sure that any changes align with the overall goals and objectives for the film’s release,” adds Mohan.

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Producer Girish Johar has seen several such cases in over two decades of his career. “Certain makers are avoiding clashes because we all know that box office has completely flared up competition and the audience has become very ruthless,” he says. “If they don’t want to watch a particular film or don’t like a particular film, promotions or trailer, they’re not coming to theaters for the film. Earlier, even medium average films used to get a decent weekend opening and then if the film wasn’t liked, we used to see a crash on the weekdays. But these days, even big films are not taking a good opening. This is compelling the producers to rethink and they want to avoid clashes. I think that’s the reason they are being pretty cautious. And I don’t think it’s wrong to be cautious because huge monies are at stake. If you consider Dream Girl 2 clashing with Yodha, both belong to different genre and cater to a different target audience. So the makers probably feel that the audiences will not be divided.”

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Producer Ramesh Taurani’s film Merry Christmas was postponed suddenly and it was said that it is to avoid clash with Cirkus. However, he feels if the film is good it will work, if not it won’t. “Changing the release date does not impact business. But yes, it is always better to avoid clashes at the box office. If someone postpones a release date, it is a very calculated business decision,” he tells ETimes.

Consequences of changing dates

Even though a calculated move, repeated change in release dates could backfire and not always go in favour of the film. “Changing a film’s release date can have both positive and negative impacts on its box office collections, depending on various factors,” explains Atul Mohan. “On one hand, changing the release date can help a film avoid competition from other highly anticipated films or major events that could divert audiences’ attention. It can also give the film more time for marketing and promotion, which could lead to increased audience awareness and interest. On the other hand, it can also lead to negative consequences. If the new release date falls too close to other highly anticipated films, it could still face stiff competition.”

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“Additionally, if a film’s release date is changed multiple times, it could create confusion and frustration among audiences, potentially leading to decreased interest. It’s also worth noting that changing the release date can have wider impacts on a film’s production schedule, as it could affect the availability of theaters and other resources needed for the film’s release,” he adds.

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Anees Bazmee may be one of the rare filmmakers whose film has seen multiple delays and yet come out with exceptionally flying colours. “Changing the release dates does not always turn out to be very favourable for the movies, because people have already made up their mind about watching the movie,” he says. “During Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, we had announced four different dates and even got the posters made, but still could not release our film on any of those dates. The bottomline here is, it’s better to stick to the date, but ultimately nothing is bigger than the film. There is no calculation, but it’s about the curiosity around the film. Postponing release dates to avoid a clash has happened so many times in the past, sometimes it has worked in favour of the film, sometimes it hasn’t. But it cannot become a deciding criteria whether the result will be good or bad. Personally, if I look at it as an audience, it wouldn’t matter to me if some release date is changed. I would watch say an Avatar irrespective.”

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Akshaye Rathi adds, “Sometimes I wonder about this over calculation that happens and this over engineering that makers try and do around the release date. Because it virtually stops showing the confidence of the maker in the film. And when that happens, it’s brutal. Because somewhere it’s important to back the content you’ve made if it has merit. And when that is the case, nothing can stop a film.”

Was it a wrong move for Shehzada?

Experts argue had Shehzada released on its initial date of February 10, it would have secured an advantage of a solo release and the benefit of Valentine’s Day in its first week. But the change of date led it to clash with Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania that got the dynamics skewed right at the advance bookings. While Ant-Man sold over 50000 tickets in the three national chains – PVR, Cinepolis and Inox, Shehzada merely managed to sell around 5000 tickets in the same chains in advance bookings. Both Marvel and franchise films enjoy a great fan following in India and the same has reflected in the advance bookings where Ant-Man was ahead of Shehzada by a huge margin.

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“Initially, there were high hopes for Shehzada,” says Atul Mohan. “However, as the promotional materials were released, both the audience and the trade felt that something was amiss. The trailer failed to impress, the songs did not gain much traction, and the makers made a significant mistake by postponing the movie’s release, demonstrating a lack of confidence in the product’s potential success in the market. Additionally, scheduling the film to clash with Ant-Man was also an unwise decision as it created a significant difference in the advance ticket sales of the two films. Rohit Dhawan has a relatively unimpressive track record, which adds more pressure to the film’s star, Kartik Aaryan, and the remake’s quality. Given that the original film had attained cult status, matching its success will be a difficult feat. Ultimately, it remains to be seen whether Shehzada can overcome these challenges and achieve success at the box office.”

Akshaye Rathi has a different opinion as he says, “Shehzada clashing with Ant-Man is not a cause of worry for either of the films, because both cater to very different demographics and both have enough showcasing and capacity to run even if all the shows for all the cinemas that both the films are placed in run housefull. There is enough scope for them to coexist conveniently. Having said that, I think both the films will open and continue to have a sustained run purely on the basis of their merits. If either one of the films or both the films don’t have the merits to be able to draw traction with the audience in huge numbers to the cinemas, then their fate lies entirely at the mercy of the audience.”

As things stand today for Shehzada, the film may not earn more than Rs 6-7 crore on opening day. Film critic and trade analyst Komal Nahta makes no bones about it as he says, “Shehzada was postponed out of fear of Pathaan. The makers thought that the third week of Pathaan would cost them big in the first week of Shehzada. But now it seems Pathaan’s fourth week will also be better than Shehzada’s first week, as the film has no merits.”

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